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Chapter Three

Chapter Three


The Christmas holiday had once again snuck up on the young man while his mind was concentrated
on the events in the old house around him. He cursed himself silently for allowing his mind to
drift away from the events of the outside world. His mother had made him promise to come home
for Christmas Eve and even though the thought of family relations more than once a year pained
him, he reasoned that perhaps it was better than spending Christmas alone. Perhaps. Besides
that, his brother was home again from the Navy for the last time this year, and he did want to
see and talk to him again. All things considered, he had a really good time being in the
company of his younger siblings. He had begun to notice how much they were maturing, growing
up faster than even he expected. Late Christmas Day night, while the family was fast asleep,
the young man quietly snuck down into his old room in the basement, and looked through some of
the junk that he had left behind, old remnants of the life that he used to have before he left
to be on his own. Pictures of he and his High School sweethearts still adorned the walls,
along with his Metallica and Ozzy posters, his desk a cluttered mess of papers and notebooks
that it looked like someone had attempted to sort through and had given up halfway through.
There were his glasses, cosmetic, of course, with big, thick, black frames, and there was his
old trench coat, a little dingy and tattered, which had long been his unique fashion statement
at college long before any "mafia" ever thought of it, and over there, there were all of his
old hats, mostly fedora's, that he loved so much.

As he dug through the piles of paper, mostly college notebooks and the lot, he found what he
considered to be a lost treasure. It was a small gold box of golf balls, a box that used to
contain golf balls anyway, which now held all of Nikki's pictures and letters that she had sent
him when they were apart. Smiling at the memory, he sat down and began reading some of them.
The letters themselves were a bittersweet memoir of the time they had spent together in college,
recalling some of her favorite memories of their relationship, and they served as a way for her
to express her feelings to him.

"I love you," she wrote, "and in this instance, I look up to you for being so strong in this
situation. I know that this is probably harder on you than it is for me because I'm here and
you're there, yet every time I talk to you, you just keep telling me that it's only a short
time and that we'll make it through this, instead of complaining about what you are missing."
The young man wondered where that confidant, self-assured man had gone, as he wiped a tear from
his cheek. He took the letters and a few other odds and ends that were of personal value to
him, and stashed them in his Christmas bag.

As soon as the morning had come, even though it was quite brisk outside, he felt like taking a
walk, and coerced his brother into going on a hike into the old trails and pathways that they
used to when they were kids. It was sad to see that in the time he had been gone, most of the
forests that they had grown up around had been cleared away and houses built up in their place.
The old tree fort, which had been theirs for years, long gone to make way for the Johnson's
two story home. It seemed to both young men that their innocence had fallen victim to human
progress.

"So, how's the Navy treating you?" he asked, offering his brother a cigarette.

"Not too shabby, man. By the way, sorry about your being denied getting into the Air Force."

He was referring to the fact that not long after the highly publicized "War on Terrorism" began,
with patriotism flared up, and the young man went down to the local recruitment office to see
what the Armed Services could offer him. Unfortunately having a clubbed foot, he found, is
one of the few ways to avoid the draft, and also get yourself permanently blacklisted from any military service. Que sera sera.

"What happened with you and Danielle?" his brother asked finally hoping to divert the young man's attention from his previous question.

"Oh, that. You heard about that?"

"You know Mom..."

"Ah!" the young man said flicking his cigarette to the ground, "Everything will work itself out.
I wrote her a letter."

His brother nodded and the two continued silently along an old dirt trail that they used to
take during the summer months to the local Delicatessen. It was a little known fact amongst
the locals that "Kelly's Deli" made the greatest Roast Beef subs in the
New York area, and
they would make it a point to go every single weekend until the start of school.

While they ate, the young man's brother regaled him with stories of all the women he had
known, and all the military secrets that he had come across and wasn't supposed to say anything
about. After some prodding, the young man finally talked about exactly what had happened with
Danielle. His brother simply sat shaking his head.

"Wow. You really fucked up." he said, through a mouthful of roast beef.

"Thanks. As always, I can count on you for a vote of support."

"Hey, look at it this way," his brother started, "Relationships are like the Lottery. The
chances of winning are pretty damned low." He thought about his statement a minute. "Wait a
minute, why in the Hell do we keep playing, then?"

"Yeah, well, I got the winning ticket right here." the young man said, triumphantly holding
the "Danielle letter", now in an actual envelope, in front of his brother's nose.

"You still haven't mailed it yet?"

"Umm.....no. Not exactly."

"Why the Hell not?"

A good question. The young man had been sitting on the letter for two weeks now, and the
window of opportunity for salvaging the relationship was getting ever slimmer, a fact which
his brother noted. Still, for some reason, he hadn't sent it off. Perhaps he was afraid that
it would fail, or perhaps he was afraid it wouldn't. He was only twenty-three, and the
relationship had been pretty serious. Was he really ready for a commitment that could lead to
marriage? His brother seized the opportunity and snatched the letter from his hands and
bolted for the door, leaving the young man to clear the table. By the time he had left the
deli, his brother was standing by the big, blue mailbox, grinning triumphantly, puffing away
on his cigarette.

"Don't worry, you'll thank me for it some day!"


* * *

That "someday" would come three days later, when the young man received a knock at the front
door. His face, hands, and hair were spattered with spackle from working all morning on the
upstairs bedrooms, and he knew that he must have looked awful. He noticed Danielle's car in
the driveway before he opened the door, and felt a sudden twinge of unrest in his stomach. He
closed his eyes, and attempted to steel himself for seeing her again for the first time in two
months.

"Hi." he said, opening the door for her. She was still as beautiful as he remembered, her
dark brown hair outlining her delicate facial features. He noticed right away that she had
the letter in her hand.

"What's up?" she said, giving him a soft hug. He held her a little too long, making the
embrace awkward, and he cursed himself again. Above all, he didn't want to appear desperate.
She had left him, after all, and even though he did write the letter, she showed up at his
house.

"Nothin' much here." he said, looking around as though he was a visitor in his own home. "Just
working on getting this place livable again."

"Yeah....good luck." she said, holding up a dirty pair of socks he had left on the recliner
near the door.

"Thanks, I think."

"Sorry. It is a nice house, though."

"I call it home."

There was a pause in faux conversation they were carrying on, in which they both desperately
avoided looking into each other's eyes. As much as he had wanted to see her, as many things
as he had wanted to say to her, at that moment he wasn't ready to deal with the whole ordeal.
So many thoughts were running through his mind that he became a little dizzy, and he
desperately looked towards the back door, as though it was a viable means of escape.

Suddenly Danielle lurched forwards and kissed him as deeply he had ever been kissed before.
Stunned by the unexpected move, he wasn't quite sure what to do, but he decided to just go
with it. They passionately groped at each other, pulling their clothes off en route to the
bedroom. Falling flat on his back onto the bed, Danielle climbed on top of the young man,
pulling off her lacy black bra, and letting her luscious, full breasts fall free for the young
man to greedily take into his waiting hands. She looked deeply into his eyes, her blue eyes
twinkling like pools of pure crystal water.

"I want you to make love to
me." she said, very matter-of-factly.

"But, I..." he started to say, before she put her index finger to his lips.

"Just make love to
me." she smiled.

For the next hour or so, things were exactly the way they were before there were any
arguments. He had missed her so much, that it made him want her that much more. They had
wild animalistic sex, actually pulling all of the sheets off his bed in the process. When
they had both been spent, they laid together, staring up at the ceiling, comfortable in each
other's embrace.

"I love you." he said, turning to her with a smile on his face.

She suddenly developed the look of a deer caught in a truck driver's headlights. Sitting up,
she looked nervously around for her clothes, as though he had just told he a bomb was about to
go off.

"What's the matter?" the young man said, sitting up to watch her.

"Nothing. I just.....I gotta go."

"Wait a minute here. What the Hell just happened here?"

"I DON'T KNOW!!!" she cried, bursting into tears and falling into pile at the foot of the bed.

The young man made a makeshift toga out of his bed sheet and came around to comfort her, even
though he had no idea why she was so upset. He thought that this had been the greatest thing
that had happened to him in a very long time, certainly not an occasion in which crying was
warranted. When she had calmed down sufficiently, they both got dressed and he suggested that
they go to the diner down the street for some coffee (tea, in her case) and to talk about the
whole situation.

"I don't know what I'm feeling right now." she said, looking dispassionately out into the
parking lot. Was this the same woman who had asked him to make love to her earlier? "I'm still
very hurt about the whole thing, and there are times when I work myself up so much that I
downright hate you..."

The man sat silently, for once in his life. He had been well known to interrupt her while she
was speaking, as though he was attempting to make counterpoints to her claims, but at this
particular time, he sat quietly, and absorbed all that she had to say.

She sipped her tea and returned his glance, "But, there are times....when I miss you, miss
us.... I don't know what I want, right now."

He waited a full minute before he reached out to hold her hand. She pulled away defiantly.

"And you thought that by sleeping with me, what, that it would clear it all up for you?" he
had raised his voice considerably, but not without good reason. "Jesus, Danielle...."

"No, it's not like that." she said, pleadingly. "Part of me still is very much in love with
you. And when I saw just then, all of the old feelings and stuff... they just came rushing
back to
me."

"And the other part of you?"

"I'm just not sure." She had started crying again, and the young man looked around
uncomfortably. He wasn't exactly sure who the bad guy in this scenario was. "Can't we
just... I don't know... like, go from here, and just see what happens?"

The young man took a long sip of coffee while he thought over what it was that she was asking
him to do. Basically, as he took it, they were going to see other people and each other until
she could decide what she truly wanted. Was that really what he wanted? Was he ready for
another potential let down? And also, was it worth giving up the chance of being with her
again?

"Sure, Danielle... "

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